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Shoesmith Elementary Scrambling to Hit Enrollment Target

By Sam Cholke | September 5, 2013 7:24am
 Shoesmith is fundraising to restore programs eliminated after budget cuts.
Shoesmith is fundraising to restore programs eliminated after budget cuts.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

KENWOOD — The principal at Shoesmith Elementary School is scrambling to get kids in seats before the district does a headcount this Monday to determine the school's funding.

“If we don’t have 343 students on that 10th day, they’re going to extract money from our budget,” said Principal Sabrina Gates.

Shoesmith, 1330 E. 50th St., was 10 students off from its spring projections on the first day of school, but Gates recruited enough students to get one shy of the projections.

Chicago Public Schools changed its funding formula for this school year. Instead of getting a set amount, Shoesmith and other schools get funding based on how many students are enrolled and attend as counted on the 10th and 20th days of school.

Gates said she is going down Shoesmith’s waiting list, but said she feels some pangs of guilt going after students at other public schools, knowing that it means a reduction in funding for that school.

Even if Shoesmith hits its enrollment goals, Gates is still looking for ways to raise more funds for the school, which had to cut Spanish and music programs this year.

Gates said she is considering enlisting teachers and staff to work concessions at Soldier Field to restore the Suzuki music program.

“That could be bringing Suzuki back,” said Assistant Principal Nicole Neal. “But we still don’t have air conditioners in every room.”

Neal said seven classrooms aren’t air conditioned, but the estimated cost to do so is $17,000, well beyond a single fundraiser.

Gates said she is hesitant to turn to parents to ask for more money.

“Parents are already stretched thin with school fees and expenses,” Gates said, adding that 85 percent of her students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

After word got out that Shoesmith was deciding between buying toilet paper or paying for science curriculum, alumni and community members stepped in to help, according to Gates.

The Chicago Science Nerds, a group which advocates for science education, along with a former student who is now a chemist started raising funds to restore the Interactive Science program.

Shoesmith is also participating in a fundraising effort with Target, which will give the school $25 for ever 25 votes the school gets on the retailer's website.